Monday, October 13, 2008

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

on the press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation regarding withdrawal of Russian Armed Forces from Georgia
Tbilisi, 10 October 2008

On 9 October 2008 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a press release on the withdrawal of Russia’s so-called peacekeeping forces from Georgia in which the Russian side claims to have fulfilled ahead of time the commitment under the EU Presidency-mediated agreement.

With respect to the foregoing, the Georgian Foreign Ministry is authorized to state the following:

After Russia’s military aggression against Georgia on 7 August 2008 and occupation of large part of its territory, Russian troops deployed on the territory of Georgia can only be defined as occupation forces and any reference to their ‘peacekeeping status’ is deprived of any legal and political basis.

Despite its claims, the Russian side still continues to grossly violate the provisions of the six-point ceasefire agreement, which mandates restoration of the status quo existing prior to the breakout of hostilities.

The Russian occupation forces still illegally keep their positions near the village of Perevi, Sachkhere district, and in Akhalgori. It needs to be noted that the Georgian-populated district of Akhalgori has never been an arena of conflict; as a result of Russian military intervention, however, inhabitants of the district had to leave their homes and they still have no possibility to return.

The Russian occupation troops acting in league with Sokhumi separatists are still exercising illegal control over the territory of Upper Abkhazia, from which the local Georgian population was forcefully expelled.

In flagrant violation of Point 5 of the six-point ceasefire agreement, the Russian side still retains illegally and even increases its military presence on the territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region where, according to the official statement of the Russian Defence Ministry itself, up to 8 thousand servicemen are still present. Moreover, the Russian side continues to bar monitors of the European Union and other international organizations from accessing these regions that prevents verification of the number and composition of Russian military personnel. Furthermore, an agreement was reached with the separatist regimes on the setting up of Russian military bases in both regions, which also directly contradicts the ceasefire agreement.

Withdrawal of the Russian troops from the part of the occupied territory of Georgia was paralleled by a series of terrorist acts. Moreover, the Georgian villages, which Russian invaders and their separatist accomplices have left behind themselves are burned, ruined and destroyed. The Georgian side has been repeatedly informing the international community on the crimes committed by separatists. Now everyone will be able to assess exactly the scale of violence by armed separatists abetted and backed by Moscow. Gross and mass violation of human rights, violence, robbery and burglary can be viewed as descriptive marks of the Russian occupation regime.

Taking into consideration the high criminality level and generally the extremely severe situation on the yet occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, Russia must immediately stop arms supply and training of local illegal armed formations in both regions that is one of the essential preconditions for preventing provocations and incidents. It is to be hoped that the activity of international monitors throughout the territory of Georgia will put an end to speedy militarization of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.

Whatever may be the Russian side’s approach to this, making any reference to Russia’s compliance with that part of the six-point ceasefire agreement, which deals with the restoration of the military status quo ante will become possible only after Russian occupation troops have left the entire territory of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. The Russian side would be advised to realize that eventually not a single invader in military uniform will remain on the territory of Georgia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, along with the international community considers as its priority task to ensure the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees to the places of their permanent residence and consequently, the elimination of consequences of the mass ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Russian occupation troops in Georgia. This is one of the key issues that will be placed at the centre of discussions during international negotiations regarding security and stability in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region scheduled to take place in Geneva.